I know I keep saying goodbye to Bo(ris Johnson), once through the Medium of Jake Thackray’s masterpiece. That’s here: Pages: Goodbye to Bo through the Medium of Jake Thackray’s masterpiece (not a book review) (robertsheppard.blogspot.com)
And then, here, finally, finally finally, here here here: Pages: Robert Sheppard: A final final poem for British Standards!
But yesterday I thought I might have to say HELLO again to him! The horror! The horror! The thought that this wreck of a human being
nursing his hangover, desperately phoning out for supporters, or to Deliveroo for an Alka-Selzer (as one wittily expressed it on Twitter), thumbs-upping us in Trumpian triumphalism, was returning, was a threat of more ego-driven drivel! Even those Union Jacks limply appropriated (from where?) for the occasion in the empty office space (hired by the hour?) express the desperation. The biggest threat, was not the political chaos that would follow (maybe a second royal yacht in case of emergencies) but the threat to ME! (Why can’t I be as big as egotist as him?) The threat that, far from having passed on to a project to write through the Liverpool images of Tricia Porter, or to write 10 poems one line at a time (today’s is ‘as they twirl knowledge in a giddy drop’), or even to finish my ‘novel’ Elle, I would have to return (like Bo himself) to that which I have renounced. Of course, I haven’t been in the Caribbean (though I have been in the Belvedere, The Handyman, and Ye Cracke… No, but I might have to return to the task of transposing sonnets to keep up with Bo’s vaulting ambition (imagine him vaulting!), even though I’ve rejected the decadent sonnets I was looking at some months ago (that’s all in those posts linked to above), Arthur Symons and all that.
No, I decided, I would have to face up to the Big One, Shakespeare’s Sonnets. I’ve avoided them, because others have written through them (Philip Terry, K. Selim Mohammed, Michael Egan, and many others), and because they are curiously disarming in a way that Drayton’s are not (I bagged Drayton's here: https://robertsheppard.blogspot.com/2019/09/on-bad-idea-and-reference-to-earlier.html : all done, all available). In preparation I read about 35 of them, and also the pages in Jonathan Bate’s very fine book Soul of the Age that I’d already marked, in my initial sonnet-researches eons ago. So, off I would go. I looked at sonnet one. Oh, yes, the imploring voice, it sounded like Zahawi’s quickly deleted email in favour of the blond bombshell Bo. Oh yes, ‘From fairest creatures we’ do ‘desire increase’ – in inflation, interest rates, food costs. Yes, I’m already starting. Bo’s bombastic egoism is perfectly echoed by The Bard in his ’thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel’! ‘Pity the world… to eat the world’s due!’ – it's all there, all there. Ready to go, if need be.
Then he pulled out, having 100 supporters (sez who?), saying he could have won, if only they’d let him. Pete Best has turned up at Abbey Road to record Revolver!
One of the reasons for picking Shakespeare for this approach (and, remember, part of this post is to keep materials in mind in case he does re-emerge, after he is exonerated by the Commons Committee, Bo is no liar (he assures us)). One reason is that he himself, Bo, is writing a book on Shakespeare. It has a title, The Riddle of Genius, and it is available for preorder on Amazon, here: Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius: Amazon.co.uk: Johnson, Boris: 9780771050831: Books
Four hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare is more popular than ever. Studied by schoolchildren everywhere, performed and interpreted in every conceivable medium and setting, he remains an unparalleled global phenomenon. With characteristic curiosity, verve, and wit, Boris Johnson sets out to determine why and how. He immerses us in the swagger and terror of the Elizabethan era, with its newfound craze for theater and its bold intellectual flowering, under the threat of repression. He explores the timelessly intriguing themes of the plays: the illicit sex and the power struggles; the fratricide and matricide; the confused identities and hormonal teenagers; the racism, jealousy, and political corruption. He explores the psychology of Shakespeare's characters and celebrates the playwright's appreciation for women and the roles he created for them, more fully realized than those Hollywood churns out (had women but been allowed to play them in his day). And above all, he revels in the language -- our language, which that master poet enriched with at least 2,500 new-coined words and a litheness that is an ongoing delight to us all. In this joyful, fascinating book, Johnson reminds us why Shakespeare truly was a genius, a writer not just for his time, but for all time.
If he dares, I am here, sonnets in hand, like grenades, at the ready. (Unless, of course, I choose to do something quite other with the Bard. After all, he’s ‘more popular than ever’!) Oh, and Jonathan Bate has words of advice for Bo: ‘Don’t waste everyone’s time with a sub-par biography based on secondhand research – write a more personal book about what Shakespeare has taught you about the important things in your life such as sex, ambition and betrayal. He has a lot to say about those great themes.’
See for an account of Bo's work in progress and the controversy surrounding its composition: Boris Johnson offered to pay for help writing Shakespeare biography, says scholar | Books | The Guardian
Bo at the theatre, talking his way through a performance of Shakespeare, unmasked during the restrictions!
Locating Robert Sheppard
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